The Arthur Wildlife Blog

Twins: Edouard & Alexandre share their world


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Breakfast with the Orangutans

In December 2010 our family were very lucky to visit Borneo.  Our mother had always dreamed of visiting the Borneo rainforest and seeing the wild orangutans and other animals that live in that unique habitat.  We were only seven years old but have very happy memories of our visit.  We had proudly “adopted” two orangutans, “Michelle and Ceria: via the Sepilok Orangutan Appeal UK charity and were keeping our fingers crossed that we might catch a glimpse of our “babies”.    A special river tour on Sungai Kinabatangan was one of our trip highlights.   It was great to see so many animals but we were sad to see the miles and miles of palm oil plantations en-route.   We loved our special time of Turtle Island and will never forget that very special Christmas Eve where we witnessed the release of 100 baby turtles.  Likewise, we had to keep pinching ourselves to remind each other that we were “in the wild” and so lucky to see many birds, monkeys and some very unique primates.

We asked our Mum to write an account of our visit – as we believe it is important to share the excitement we enjoyed and also to share some of the more serious information our parents learnt about during our visit.

Witnessing the wild orangutans enjoying breakfast at Sepilok was so cool and we were also blessed to have breakfast with a group of orangutans in Singapore Zoo – but that’s a story for another report!

Here is A personal account of my family’s visit to Sepilok, Sabah, Borneo – thanks Mum!

Edouard and Alexandre.

Why Borneo?
My father lived and worked in Borneo and often told us stories of the majestic and shy “men of the forest” that he had the good fortune to observe during his time there. Orang utan- the name derived for these wonderful red apes – from the Malay Orang Hutan – men of the forest. My father worked there in 1964, coincidentally the same year that the famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) opened.

The Sanctuary was opened in 4,500 hectares of virgin jungle (40 minutes/25 km north from Sandakan, Sabah, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo) to help orphaned baby orang utans who lost their mothers due to logging, plantations and illegal hunting. The objective was to return them back to the wild as soon as they were trained to cope. Baby orang utans typically stay with their mothers until they are 7 or 8 years old. If separation occurs before this age, the baby orang utan is completely helpless, and thus is totally dependent on centres such as Sepilok for survival. Without the care, training and guidance that this centre offers orphans, the future for them is bleak and death the most likely outcome.

Background to orang utans past, present and future

SORC is now one of the most popular places in the world to see Asia’s great ape, the Orang utan (Pongo Pygmaeus) in its native habitat. It is rated as the second “must see” in Malaysia after Mt Kinabalu, also in Sabah. At the beginning of the 20th century orang utans in Borneo numbered over 315,000 – today their numbers are fast dwindling. In 2006 numbers had already fallen to 45,000 and I was shocked to learn during our visit to the famous Sepilok centre in December 2010 that numbers may have been cut further… Their cousin Sumatran orang utans (species: Pongo Abelii) – the slightly redder apes in Sumatra – face an even bleaker situation with numbers only amounting to around 4000. For them, extinction in the wild is most likely in the next 5 years. Meanwhile, in Malaysia deforestation rates between 1999 and 2005 rose some 86% according to conservation sources with 149,200 hectares lost annually since 2000. This is indeed a serious issue for conservation and preservation of this special species.

As more and more of the Borneo landscape is being changed from its’ own rich vibrant diverse rainforest to acres and acres of palm oil plantations, the lost habitat is spelling out the long-term demise of these and other animals, plants and homes for the indigenous people who live there.

It was after the birth of my twin sons in the early 2000’s that I found time to research and find out more about my beloved orang utans. Thanks to the internet, information, research papers and work being conducted by charities was easily accessible. I was horrified to learn that due to the reasons listed above, the numbers of orang utans in the wild was rapidly falling. Back in 2005 experts were estimating that if no action was taken to help the orang utans, they would be extinct in the wild by 2012. It was then that I decided I would, in a very small way, try to make a difference. Clearly it is the governments who need to set policy to assist by setting guidelines on land use, allocating and protecting virgin rainforest etc. It is also businesses that need to act more environmentally responsible and as well society at large to respond accordingly. Nevertheless, the work that many charities are doing to help protect and aid these endearing primates (who share 96.5% to human genes) are certainly helping to make a difference via the various rehabilitation, land purchase and release programmes.

If we want our children and grandchildren to have the pleasure to still observe these delightful redheads in the wild, we need to take action today. I therefore set about to create awareness and education of the young via early learning stories aimed at under 7 years old and more informative stories packed with facts and stats aimed at 8 years old +. I also started to spread the word and I’m working to encourage as many schools as possible to include information with their rainforest education programs to ensure that today’s young people are informed on the plight of the orang utans. Better still, one hopes the young will feel empowered to work with governments, business and charities to safeguard the future, for those that will remain in the wild.

 

Indonesian and Malaysian Palm Oil Production

Another issue facing Borneo and the orang utans future is palm oil. There is serious concern that not all palm oil production is sustainable, with issues relating to biodiversity, soil degradation, local people, land rights and many other matters. Development of new plantations has resulted in the conversion of large areas of forests with high conservation value and has threatened the rich biodiversity in these ecosystems.

In particular orangutan habitats have been threatened by palm oil production. Scientists say the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the species driven to extinction within 12 years unless the devastation of their natural habitat is halted.

Some environmental campaigners claim that in 15 years, 98% of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone unless drastic action is taken to find ways of producing sustainable palm oil. The expansion of oil palm plantations has also given rise to social conflicts between the local communities and project proponents in many instances.

Palm oil plantation, Sabah

As a result, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2003 to tackle these problems head on. GreenPalm, which has been exclusively endorsed by the RSPO, is already making a significant contribution. GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.

By buying a product which bears the GreenPalm logo, consumers can make a positive contribution to the production of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO).

New RSPO logo

With this background,  I felt compelled to visit Borneo, in the hope to see first hand the beautiful orang utans in the wild (before it was too late) and to visit Sepilok to learn more about their important work. As my sons had adopted two of the Sepilok babies: Michelle and Ceria we had an added incentive to visit.

 Overview on trip to Sungai Kinabatangan River

Ahead of visiting we Sepilok we decide to take a day to cruise along the Sungai Kinabatangan river – the longest river in Sabah. We were rewarded by being able to see crocodiles, various snakes, many proboscis monkeys, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, wild pigs, and a wide range of birds including hornbill, storks, snake birds and eagles. We marvelled at the colourful butterflies that fluttered around but sadly no orang utans were spotted in the tree tops. Certainly elusive and difficult to observe in the wild, but becoming a rare treat as they systemically lose their habitat each year. A friend had visited in December 2009 and lucked out by spotting one orangutan during her cruise.

The Sepilok experience

The next day we negotiated with a local taxi to take us to both Sepilok and the nearby Labuk Bay Proboscis monkey sanctuary. We headed north out of Sandakan toward the centre, nestled in 40 sq km of the Kabili-Sepilok rainforest reserve. My heart sank seeing the miles and miles of palm oil plantations travelling towards the centre and sanctuary. Thank heavens that Sabah set up this protected reserve back in the 1960’s. As we arrived at the centre I was surprised how immaculate the grounds were – with beautiful gardens edging the modern, well-kept buildings – it felt as if you were arriving at a hotel rather than a nature reserve. Nevertheless, we hurriedly said farewell to our taxi driver and ran, yes ran, to the centre to find the ticket office. Arriving at 9 am just as the centre opened, we hoped to have the ability to approach the feeding platform early, in the hope to experience an early sighting ahead of the crowds. Sadly we were not the only people with the same idea! I had been in contact with the UK orang-utan appeal and had learnt that one of their representatives would be at the centre. We enquired at the reception desk if Liz Winterton, from the Appeal was available, and were surprised to hear her voice shout yes from the other side of the ticketing area!

With tickets in hand we went over to meet Liz who was already on duty with her information stand – promoting adoptions of available babies at Sepilok (together with photos and information), and an information board summarizing some of the projects the Appeal have done with Sepilok during the past year (Vet staffing, transportation, cages for the sick or newly arrived orphans etc). Liz promised to join us later at the feeding platform to help us identify any visitors! We were instructed to place all our bags and belongings in the nearby lockers. Some things are strictly not allowed – ie drinks, and insect spray as these pose very real dangers to the wild animals (an orang-utan has chocked to death after getting a water bottle cap stuck in its throat). We were informed that an inquisitive primate could steal even hats, glasses, and bags. With cameras firmly secured to our bodies we strode towards the rainforest walkway.

We head out into the humid jungle boardwalk and embrace the beautiful sight of ancient trees. The forest is clearly hundreds of years old – the canopy of the tall trees provides much needed shelter from the sun. Much taller than the trees that lined the riverbanks yesterday. Ferns grow in the dappled shade, clinging on to sides of damp tree limbs. Thick moss thrives on the north faces of fruit trees and the smell of the muddy water from the forest floor is evident. We are surprised to also identify the smell of primates not far away in the trees – a wet musky pungent odour. We wonder how we must smell to them.

We were grateful to easily make our way through the hot, sticky rainforest on the elevated wooden boardwalk. There had been a huge thunderstorm the night before and we could see how waterlogged and muddy the ground below was. We are instantly enrobed with the sounds and calls of the forest. My children claim to immediately hear the kissing cry of the orang utans (experts at 7 years old thanks to many hours watching the BBC’s Orang-utans Diaries). Bird whistles, screaming gibbons and tree branch and leaf rustles create an element of interest and potential danger. The humidity is intense – sweat drips down your face and the sensation is that of being in a sauna. Clothed in a long sleeve shirt – to avoid the risk of leeches attaching to you, which was a real threat – increased my temperature and discomfort. The ease and speed at which you can march 250 m to the feeding platform in “wild” rainforest eliminates the real danger of experiencing trekking in knee high mud and watching out for snakes.

Nevertheless, the laissez faire approach quickly evaporates when we come face to face with hungry Macaques on our path. A park ranger quickly appears and warns people not to stare or have eye contact, not to touch it or attempt to feed it. I rush to pull my son away as he stares at the inquisitive primate. Meanwhile, people walking ahead of us, come head to head with an aggressive male macaques. There is banging and vocal exchanges as they quickly run for safety. The rangers warnings were no joke.

We quickly back away and find a safe spot on the feeding platform – reminding the children this is not a zoo but the wild! We are about 25 minutes ahead of the official feeding time.

Nevertheless we decide to remain and safeguard our good location. We observe blue-black and other colour butterflies flying and settling around. A group of very noisy long tailed Macaques and other monkeys arrive and check out the platform for any left over scraps. One would think they have their own watches to alert them to the feeding time that was due. As the feeding hour approaches, more and more people arrive and finally the platform is crowded with hot, sweaty tourists all waiting in anticipation – cameras/camera phones and video a ready. What a mysterious sight for the wild animals to observe. “Who is really watching who?”crossed my mind as we waited in anticipation of a great ape.

Orang utans on deckAt 10 am the rangers arrives with buckets of food and a troupe of hungry monkeys arrive on the scene. The rangers pushed and persuaded this cheeky group to leave – after all the food was for the orang utans – they could have any remaining leftovers. There is always a second feeding at 3 pm for those orang utan who miss the morning session. Clearly the monkeys know the routine and swing away to wait their turn. Suddenly as if on queue we hear loud rustling of leaves in the trees. We hold our breath – yes a blur of red hair can be seen in the distance. Our long wait is rewarded. We are lucky today – despite the early rain and plentiful fruit in the forest, a mother orang-utan and her youngster can be seen swinging to towards the feeding platform. The orang utans use the vine rope that has been secured between trees and the feeding platform to arrive. They move effortlessly, swinging hand-to-hand, like circus acrobats. The cameras click as stellar photo opportunities are presented. I note that everyone is smiling, staring, pointing at the proficient trapeze-artist movements.

The pair arrive on the platform and inspect today’s offerings. We have been informed that the choice of food is always the same to ensure it is boring to the orang utans – today’s delivery appeared to be bananas and sugar cane tubes. The idea is that by having a limited choice they will be encouraged to forage in the forest for different fruits to supplement their diet. Orang utans are known to eat up to 500 different types of fruit, leaves, and insects. Clearly nursing mothers, who may be having difficulty finding sufficient food, can use this service to supplement their efforts.

These shy and bashful but highly intelligent creatures are clearly uncomfortable at the spectacle they find themselves in. You can sense the mother is aware of the crowds but does not want to be watched. She places food in every hand and foot – looking like a greedy child- and she turns her back on the crowd. Liz from the UK Orangutan Appeal joins us at this moment and explains that the mother is Mimi, a 17 year old adult orang utan, together with her 6 year old son, Rony born at Sepilok in 2004. Mimi is a regular guest at the feeding platform, especially when Rony was younger. She had a very large appetite whilst she was suckling her young baby, but continues to use the feeding platform service to supplement her own foraging efforts.

Mimi grabs breakfast

She explains that whilst there are over 150 orang utans who have been released at Sepilok, only 6-10 orangutans currently visit the platform at feeding time. Currently 3 sets of mothers and babies have been regular visitors. Due to the rainstorm that had occurred in the early hours, orang utans are like humans, and don’t like to get wet. If they have found a nice dry spot, they will typically not venture far from their shelter. Orang utans have been seen using large leaves as umbrellas or making rain hats out of leaves – the most ingenious of primates! As a result for this morning’s feeding only Mimi and Rony have left their cover for breakfast. She speculates that the others may visit this afternoon, once the ground was a little dryer.

Mimi swings away, with additional food in her feet, and Rony enters the platform to select his breakfast before the hungry waiting monkeys jump back on the platform to clean up the left-overs. The waiting crowd keenly watches Rony’s eating antics. He lingers for a short while and then chases to catch up with his mother. The assembled group wait in the hope for more visitors, but a few gibbons that have now joined the feast, and no more orang utans arrive.

 

Exploring Sepilok’s walking trails

Slowly the crowd disperses and we continue along the boardwalk. As we had registered to take the walking trail, we step off the wooden path and head towards the muddy hiking path. There are a number of trails ranging from 250m to 4km. Guided night walks can also be arranged if you are that adventurous. We’ve been told to look out for green snakes, the blood sucking leeches as well as flying squirrels and dozens of different bird species. Thankfully for me we don’t encounter any snakes only a very large and swollen caterpillar, pretty hornbill birds and others I could not identify as well as gibbons and those cheeky macaques. The sounds of the jungle continued to embrace us and I have to admit for the first time I was beginning to feel a little frightened. After the “safe” feeling around with feeding platform, with various rangers on guard, we were quite alone in a rainforest! The sticky mud was now becoming an effort to navigate and the ever-present risk of standing on a snake was troubling me.

Sepilok walking trail

As a result, we decided to turn back and head to the centre to attend the Nature Education Video show.

Sepilok’s Information Briefing

We were pleasantly surprised to note that Liz from the Appeal was leading the briefing. After the informative video on the objectives of Sepilok she gave an overview on the work of the UK Orangutan Appeal. She alerted the visitors to the important programs that her charity help with at Sepilok and highlighted ways how people can help : Adopting a baby orang-utan, buying an Appeal Calendar, T-shirt, making a donation or for those buddy photographers at Sepilok – offering licence/copyright of their photos to the charity to use in publicity.

 

Latest Orang utans Statistics

The biggest shock I received was hearing her update on latest statistics. She advised that only 25,000 orang-utans were now left in the wild – I was unclear if she was only talking about Malaysia or if this also included Indonesia/Borneo. If that was a correct world status it means that another large percentage of orang-utans have been lost since 2005 when numbers were stated as being 45,000.

Our taxi driver, a local guide, told us how hard it was to really know the true number of oran utans. He had worked with a group of researchers and the way they worked to identify orang utans numbers in a given area was by counting “tree nests”. Orang utans can make up to 3 nests a day, so it was a very hit and miss way but the only method to “count” them. As orang utans are so shy and live high up in the rainforest canopy, it is almost impossible to see them and arrange an accurate evaluation on numbers – especially as they live separately over vast kilometres of impassable rainforest.

 

Orang utan Nursery

People were interested, as was I, as to whether you could visit the special nursery area at Sepilok where the babies such as Michelle and Ceria were receiving training before their release. Sadly this was not possible due to the risk infection being transmitted between humans and the orang-utans. Whilst this was totally understandable, it was quite something to explain to my 7 year olds that after travelling half way around the world they could not see their “adopted orang-utans”.

When the orang utans first arrive at the rehabilitation centre, they are quarantined and often need treatment for malnutrition and trauma. Injuries can include missing limbs, machete and chainsaw cuts, burns from being doused in petrol and set alight, and sometimes bite wounds from other animals. They are also tested for diseases. Each orang utan is provided with the necessary education and skills it will require in the forest if it is to survive.

It struck me afterwards that perhaps installing a webcam on the nursery space could be a solution. Anyone interested to observe the youngest at play could pay a small fee (example 1 dollar) to gain access to the viewing webcam via a password. Or an alternative could be for the park to periodically film the work they are doing and place footage online. I do hope they will consider!

Arthur family at Sepilok

Before our departure for the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary we head over to the attractive café nestled between the trees and parking area. We enjoy a local noodle dish and meet some Australian teachers who were visiting Sepilok and adopting 3 orang utans for their school classes! Good job and great news that informed youngsters are working to help!

UK Orangutan Appeal

The UK Orangutan Appeal is the only charity that is sanctioned by SORC to fund special projects on their behalf. They do not receive money directly from the charity but rather the Appeal pays and manages specific projects such as supplying the services of vet, building an enclosure at the centre. If you are interested to learn more or perhaps make a donation link to http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk

If this account has wetted your appetite to contribute to a volunteer programme  (there are many) one example is to work for 8 weeks in Malaysia at one of the orang utan centres, details and applications can be made via Travellers Worldwide 

Here is what one volunteered shared: “This has been a life changing experience. One that has allowed me to see some fantastic things – the release of the 23 year old male who had been at Sepilok for 8 years, taking 8 month old orang utans to play at the lake, teaching them to climb ropes, watching the rehabilitated orang utans swing through trees in the forest. It has been too amazing to put into words.”

50-mainVisit Summary

The visit to Sepilok was certainly an amazing experience. Thank you Sepilok for safeguarding this rainforest paradise and allowing us to have a glimpse into the private world of its inhabitants. Having the opportunity to be in a relatively “safe” environment that is actually “the wild” is unique. We have all grown up watching nature shows on the TV and at one time or another, perhaps dreamed of being one of those TV explorers. Sepilok gave one the chance to observe, smell and feel the atmosphere of a rainforest. Better still, we had the good fortune and blessing to see wild animals at work and play. Seeking out food, playing with their young and moving between the trees – something that typically would be impossible to experience in a hidden part the jungle, unless you were very lucky.

Orang utans are gentle, intelligent primates that speak to you through their very expressive eyes. It was easy to understand how uncomfortable the mother orang-utan felt on the feeding platform. Perhaps fearing for her young and wondering why were we there in her forest… Indeed, humans have not played straight with the forest inhabitants. They need another chance to live in peace, in their wonderful rainforest home. Everyone can play their part. We can start by supporting the use of sustainable palm oil. By encouraging your friends and indeed yourself to demand sustainable palm oil in your purchases (via lobbying manufacturers etc) we can all contribute to eliminating the loss of our precious rainforests. This will make a positive step to helping the plight of the orang utans.

Let’s hope that the further use of virgin rainforest will slow down and that sufficient land will remain for the orang utans and other animals so that orang utans can continue to thrive – simply just let them be.

Identifying suitable release sites for the orang utans is increasingly difficult with the current rate of native habitat destruction. It is a common threat that is also faced by the people living a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle – whose homes are being lost and displaced by palm oil plantations.

Sadly I fear the final outcome for this unique primate is living in much reduced numbers in the various forest reserves that will finally and hopefully be allocated to them. For the moment, I urge everyone to support the people who are helping to make a difference via the various charity work that is taking place in Borneo and Sumatra.

Sepilok – offering the orang utans orphans another chance to live in the wild.


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Why stop deforestation?

Today there is a pressing need to stop the deforestation that is occurring around the world.

You may ask why?

 

  • Our rainforests are the world’s lungs.
  • Less trees means more pollution and climate change.
  • Millions of species will be lost forever
  • Seventy-five percent of plants found in the rainforests contribute to medical solutions.
  • Of the many endangered species one is the OrangUtan.  Unless we do something today, UN scientists has stated they could be extinct by 2022.
  • The orangutan population is declining because the jungle environment is burnt and logged and their food sources lost.
  • Ideas to tackle the problem of rainforest destruction are being discussed by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • It may take 10-15 years to make a real difference.   By then it might be too late

 

– that’s why we need to take action today!

   Thanks for listening.


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We must save orangutans!

“We must do something” … Edouard and Alexandre ARTHUR.    50-main“It is well documented and promoted, that many animals in Borneo are facing extinction.  Sadly only a few of the many endangered species actually make it to the official lists and obtain legal protection.  Many more species become extinct without gaining public notice. The greatest tragedy is the rate at which species are now becoming extinct within the last 150 years.  If this rate of extinction continues, or accelerates as now seems to be the case, the number of species becoming extinct in the next decade could number in the millions.”

Thinking about the plight of the animals facing extinction risk in Borneo we discussed this subject with our mother and said, “Mummy, we have to do something”.

If children like us believe this is important, then I hope you will consider how you can make a difference.  Everyone can make a contribution to help the issues our world is facing today.  It doesn’t matter how small that effort might be, what’s important is that we take action today.  All long journeys start with one small step – so please join!

Not only are regions like Borneo impacting global climate change but their people, animals and plants are battling with a multitude of issues, not least, in some cases, extinction.  If you care about these problems, then please consider what small thing you can do to help.  Every effort adds up to make a big difference.  Please discuss this problem with your family and teachers and use some of the links within to help you find out more information.

Want to learn more?

Are you curious about the world you live in?  We certainly are!   It is hoped that our blog will ignite interest in the island of Borneo and its’ rare animals and plants, as well as underlying environmental challenges.

– we hope you will be motivated to discover and learn more.

The Borneo rainforest is 130 million years old, making it the oldest rainforest in the world.  Only in Borneo will you find ten species of primate, more than 350 birds, 150 reptiles and amphibians and a staggering 10,000 plants that are found nowhere else in the world.      Fifty two new species were found in Borneo, between 2005-2006 and more 500 species have been found between 1995-2010.  An average of three new species are still being found, month after month.    It’s definitely a place that the world should treasure and preserve.

Discover the stats about the endangered species such as the Orangutan, Clouded Leopard, Sumatran rhino and pygmy elephant.  Go to sites like WWF to find current stats.

They are all under threat due to logging, plantation agriculture, mining and hunting.  Example, in the last 20 years it has been estimated 80% of suitable orangutan habitat has disappeared, and yet only around 2% of what remains is legally protected. Without the maintenance of large blocks of inter-connected forest, there is a risk that orangutans and hundreds of other species could become extinct. 

The WWF is working to restore degraded forest areas, such as the recently designated Ulu Segama Forest Reserve, to conserve the orangutan habitat.

Geography:

Dig out world maps and find out where Borneo is situated in the world.   Compare it to this old map from 1866.   Its’ history is complex and its’ ownership is shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.  It perhaps due to this three way ownership that adds to complexity and difficulty in its’ management.

Environmental and ecological issues

One of the most pressing issues facing Borneo is the subject of deforestation.  Today, only half of Borneo’s forest cover remains, down from 75 pc in the mid 1980’s.   At one time, a poor country requiring export dollars, and that factor is still a pressing problem.   They do have oil and tourism but additional income is still required.  Taking a short term view, it is easy to rob the country of its valuable resources – destroying forests via logging companies (legal and otherwise) for wood and paper production and new plantations (palm oil) all add up to creating environmental damage.

An important ecological mistake is of course to remove many trees without including a replanting and replacement strategy.  This short term view will rule out continued work and ensures that the logging and timber industry will be unsustainable in the future.  The governments involved may point to the planting of palm trees and rubber trees but unfortunately too many trees of the same species do not create the correct rain forest eco-system.  It’s already been reported that temperatures changes have been recorded that these changes will ultimately add to the overall global climate challenge.

Not only has the country lost huge areas of forest (6 football pitches per minute or 1.3 million hectares per year) it is also threatening and endangering a number of rare species such as the orangutan,  clouded leopard, pygmy elephant etc.

Borneo is an amazing country where thousands of species of plants and animals exist and where new species are being discovered on an annual basis.  If this important habitat is further damaged the homes of these animals will continue to decline and eventually be lost.

If loss of land is damaging for those animals remaining, they are also threatened with life loss if they encroach into unprotected forest areas due to hunters, poachers or management guarding their valuable crops.

Another environmetal catastophe has been the technique of cutting trees and then burning the land to clear it for new palm oil plantation.   This environmental damage has caused pollution for all the surrounding locations during to smoke exposure resulting in many respiratory problems for animals and people alike.

There is much to be done if we wish to protect this important country for future generations.  Thankfully there are many charity organisations working hard to make a difference.  They lobby government bodies to reduce deforestation, impose laws on businesses and to hunt down and punish poachers.  They also set up special sanctuaries to care for hundreds of orangutans that have lost their homes and families.

If you are reading our blog as part of a school project, please do consider what your class can do. 

 

  • Raising awareness is a good first step.  
  • Raising money via sponsored walks etc

Or “adopting” an orangutan for your school could be another step in the right direction !!

 


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Sum of Us – helping to save bees

ThistleYou’ll know from our 2013 report that we love BEES.  That is why we want to share the news from campaigners Sum of US.

This could be huge: a global retailer might be about to pull bee-killing pesticides from its shelves. If others join, this could be a decisive victory for the bees.

Bees are dying off in their millions around the world, including 37 million (!) on a single North American farm last season. After years of research, scientists finally know the cause. “Neonics” — deadly pesticides produced by Bayer and other chemical giants. But while the bees are dying, corporations around the world are still selling these bee-killing pesticides.

That’s why a global retailer breaking ranks could be a game changer. If they stop carrying the pesticides, it could start a snowball effect and stop bee-killing pesticides for good. But we know the big corporations that profit from these deadly pesticides are fighting back. Bayer is already spending a pile of cash on a huge “bee care tour” designed to buy the trust of retailers and small businesses with false information.

We can’t allow the pesticide industry to be the only voice in the room when retailers decide whether to stop selling bee-killers. Many of the largest companies are just weeks or months away from their annual shareholder meetings — and we need to make sure they hear our message there. That’s why we want to fund activist beekeepers who’ve been watching their bees die for years to take their message directly to the shareholders, and raise a storm outside the meetings too.

Only recently, the giant US retailers Home Deport and Lowe’s were found to be selling so-called ‘bee-friendly’ plants that were actually laced with neonics! It’s almost unbelievable. But as long as retailers like Home Depot in the US and Canada, or Bunnings in Australia won’t remove neonics from their shelves, then the world’s bee population is still at risk.

We know that consumer pressure on retailers works. Before Europe’s partial ban on neonics, there was a huge movement that pushed some of the biggest retailers on the continent to voluntarily remove neonics from their shelves. If we can make sure that other retailers in Canada, the US, Australia and elsewhere pledge to stop selling neonics then we can halt the sale of these deadly pesticides.

The voices of the beekeepers is powerful — and that’s why these companies and their shareholders need to hear from the beekeepers. Last year, after thousands of SumOfUs members chipped in, our activist beekeepers traveled to Chicago and took their message directly to independent garden store owners at the world’s largest gardening convention — singing up dozens to our campaign.

The fight to save our bees has made some big steps. But Bayer and other pesticide giants aren’t taking this lying down. Now, Sum of Us need to take the battle to those retailers that are still selling neonics.

 

If  they can stop the flow of cash, then we will all be one step closer to protecting our bees.

 

 


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We’ve been blocked!

Sorry it has been a while since we last posted a report.

Our password was forgotten and it’s take some time to get it activated.  However, we are back!

We’ve been busy traveling to Canada, UK, Italy and France.  We’ve hunted for wildlife in our garden and also in the local woods and have some fun things to share.

We have also been motivated by our hero : Steve Backshall, to get out and do more for our environment.  Steve is a famous biologist, explorer and TV presenter (for Nat Geographic and BBC).  His documentary “Land of the lost Tiger” are essential viewing.  And, of course, we love all his BBC Deadly 60 programmes.  We have stocked up on his books and DVD for our birthday and have been using his tracking advice in our recent hikes.  We’ve also enjoyed his games online – if you have not found these before, check out this link at BBC

For those of you outside of Europe, you may not have seen the awesome Deadly 60 shows – check out this video!

 

 

 

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Please check back soon for our latest news.


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Deer Reserve alive and kicking in Ontario

DEER RESERVE, NEAR KINGSTON, ONTARIO, CANADA

BACKGROUND

On October 1, 2005, it came to the attention of Don Murphy and Wendy Workman of Wilton that a farmer in the community, whose health was failing, could no longer maintain adequate care of 100+ Fallow Deer on his farm near Odessa, Ontario, Canada. The deer were being destroyed by canned hunt. After witnessing this, Wendy and Don stepped in and spoke to the farmer about alternatives. Within 24 hours, they had adopted 102 Fallow Deer with the help of an anonymous sponsor who donated $4000 to purchase the herd. Don and Wendy were joined by many volunteers who helped feed and plan for the future of these beautiful animals. A home for the does and fawns was found at Omega Park in Montebello, Quebec and after testing, 89 fallow deer were loaded onto trucks and moved to the Quebec reserve on April 23, 2006.

That left 13 “unwanted” bucks at the Odessa farm. Land was found not far from the farm purchased by Jane McDonald and Allan Park near Kingston, Ontario.

2013: There are currently eight bucks at the Reserve. Although the carers do not know the actual age of the deer because records were not kept at the farm, they hope these animals will live to an age of 15 years.  The youngest is approximately 7 years and the eldest is 11+ years.

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As part of our Christmas present, our Grandma “adopted” one of the deer called, Guilliver, and we became its proud “God Parents”.  We were very lucky to visit the reserve and be shown around the site by the carers of these lovely deer.  We were fortunate and happy to prepare their favourite snack – sliced apples – and serve them to the hungry herd.

Very sadly, towards the end of our “adoption” Gulliver died.  He received a  single bullet, after receiving a large gash in his right side from a fight with another buck that left his bowels exposed to the elements.  The reserve chose to end his life swiftly on the advice of Dr. Brian Willows, a vet, that nothing could save him from infection and a slow and painful death.

WANT TO VISIT?

The Reserve welcomes visitors throughout the year, but the best times to visit are the summer/fall months from May to September. All visits are by appointment only.  They welcome school groups, seniors groups and family groups. Most vehicles can drive close to the fencing so that those in wheelchairs, strollers or walkers can see and feed the deer easily. The deer are fed in the afternoon.

There are easy nature hikes that can be enjoyed on the 50 acre piece of land, so bring hiking shoes, insect repellent, sun block and your camera.

Please leave dog companions at home.

Call (613) 386-3673 to arrange a visit or email ejane@xplornet.com to get directions to the Reserve.


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Loving nature is in our blood!

We always look forward to receiving the Canadian WILD magazine and enjoy all the articles and pictures.

Over the years we have been so lucky to travel to Canada, Borneo and around Europe and always take photos of the wildlife. Our current home is set in a village in southern France, near the Italian : French Border.  There are many forests nearby and of course the Southern Alps and Mercantour National Parks offer many opportunities for us to explore and discover nature on our doorstep.

We have adopted various animals through charity websites and have been involved in fund raising events.

We believe loving nature must be in our blood!  Our family have given the Land Conservancy over 40 acres of forest and lake fronted land, on Desert Lake, Ontario – it is called the Arthur Nature Reserve in Ontario, Canada.

ButterflyEdouardREAD MORE ABOUT THIS INTERESTING NATURE SITE

ARTHUR NATURE RESERVE, Dessert Lake, Ontario.

During our holidays we have had fun exploring this site for rare plants, birds and animals.  It was the location where our Dad spent most of his holidays as he was growing up.  He loved camping by the lake edge water and watching wildlife at play.

The site has a lovely swimming bay, which our Grandma told us she nicknamed it “Porcupine Bay” from all the porcies they saw when we first visited in 1971.   Sadly it seems they are now no longer around so have most likely moved habitat – pity because we would have loved to see them.

Naturally we were interested to know if bears were ever seen on this special Nature Reserve. They have been in Frontenac Provincial Park for years and a ban on hunting them for some years has assured their numbers.  Again, our Grandmother had had never seen any, but a few years ago a  biologist who cottages nearby to the site, advised there was a bear!   He takes walks across the land and so our family were keen to investigate if it was true.   After some exploring our Uncle found the clues and trail.  He got right to the bear’s cave- he found fresh scat around – but thankfully he didn’t cross its’ path. The cave is quite hidden and inaccessible so it must be a safe home for the bear.

Quite scary to know we might have been so close to a bear…

Another rare thing to find on the reserve is the black rat snake.  We think it falls under the “species at risk” but they always hide under rocks and so it is hard to find them.  There are wild turkeys and plenty of birds/ducks and the occasional loon.

If you haven’t seen a black rat snake – check out the video below:

Apparently there are rare wild mini iris flowers and we were lucky to see them in bloom on a recent visit.

We are happy that his lovely land has been saved for nature and for future generations to enjoy.

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QUOTE FROM OUR GRANDMA, DIANE ARTHUR

“I feel very positively about having donated waterfront land on Desert Lake to the Land Conservancy in 2010. There were many necessary steps along the way, including a detailed recording of all flora and fauna observed on the property. I was thrilled to find out so much I didn’t know about (just yesterday I was told of a blue-spotted salamander, so the list goes on). The quality of stewardship is excellent – regular checking of the property, cleanup of the shoreline if necessary, good signage, and a large drop in the number of ATVs (several species were in danger of being flattened). Helping to conserve land is THE best way to meet our ecological challenges.”

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shrike in flightWHAT DO THE LAND CONSERVANCY DO?

The land conservancy preserves habitat in our region by owning land and holding conservation easements on land to keep the land in its natural state. We are working to ensure that protected areas, such as provincial parks, conservation areas, and lands held by land trusts, will remain connected so that wildlife corridors will exist forever.

Habitat protection is crucial to the preservation of a variety of species, including many species at risk, which live in the two counties for some or all of the year. For example, birds such as the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike, the only predatory song bird, and the Cerulean Warbler, a song bird that eats mostly insects and winters in South America, require specific habitats for feeding and breeding. Unless their habitats are preserved these birds will continue their decline and soon disappear.

These are species at risk that have already been sighted on the properties protected by the Land Conservancy:

Butternut tree Juglans cinerea
Black Rat Snake  Elaphe obsoletae
Five-lined Skink  Eumeces fasciatus
Blanding’s Turtle Emydoidea blandingii
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus
Common Nighthawk
Chordeiles minor